News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 16, 2008

Church preparing to celebrate 175 years

TERRE HAUTE — On the eve of its 175th anniversary, First Congregational Church has decided to focus on the future.

Although it has a rich past, falling attendance and an aging congregation have threatened the church’s survival. The church’s average attendance is about 70 per week, but increases to 125 on holidays, Barbara Mullen said. She said does not know what is behind the disparity.

The Rev. Don Mullen and his wife, Barbara Mullen, are calling for members of the community to express their “ideas, dreams and hopes” for the church’s operation over the next 25 years. A planning session will be conducted at the church, at 630 Ohio St., on July 26 to craft a vision for First Congregational’s future. The meeting is scheduled to ensure that the church reaches its 200th anniversary in 2034, the Mullens said.

The session will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will work on identifying a five-year vision, looking at possible barriers, and creating plans to address specific areas for improvement.

Lou Jensen, retired professor at Indiana State University, will conduct the gathering and assist the church in its future planning. Some issues to be discussed in the meeting are long-term building upkeep, outreach ministry, communication and technology.

Barbara Mullen said they want the congregation actively involved in planning its church’s future.

“We’re trying to make sure the direction the church goes is where the people think it ought to go,” she said, “and that we don’t just have a board somewhere making the decisions.”

Although the church has occupied a place in the Terre Haute community for more than a century, Don Mullen said the planning session should help First Congregational develop its identity.

“What should we look like, where are we going to go to look like that and what are the needs that are around us?” he said. “These are things we’re going to talk about. We’ll build on the past, decide what we should be doing now and where we’re going to go in the future.”

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